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Love and Death

IV: This is the second of two interviews with Greg Baysans. Each is intended to be about three hours long. The first was conducted weeks ago with the second intended to have been the next day but it didn't happen.

Were you, are you afraid of this next interview, Greg?

gcb: Yes, I am.

IV: You see I've given it a title, "Love and Death." It's the name of a Woody Allen film and I know you're a fan of his films.

gcb: Well, not that much a fan but I've seen most, if not all, of his work. Maybe he's another....what's the phrase, I just heard Patty Griffin sing it...wait, let me rewind this a few songs.

(Greg gets up and sets the cd back too far.)

Nevermind, anyway, that's already getting too deep for this conversation.

IV: What are your preconceptions about this section? What would you like it to become?

gcb: Well, an early thought was to call it "Notes to a Suicide" but that's already been used and I haven't read the original so I don't know how to use it as a real allusion. By LeRoi Jones, you know.

I admit to wanting it to become a poem but I don't see how that can happen. It's all very personal, too specific. I hate how I've come to only write confessional, first-person poetry. My ideal - and part of what sets my poetry apart from popular contemporaries is that I emulate this - is the depersonalized best of Wallace Stevens. What I like is that language and not emotion is the primary force of it.

So this won't be a poem nor a confession nor a .... I don't know what it will be. 

IV: What's the question you don't want me to start with?

gcb: Oh, there's a few. 'Let's talk about love and death' would be a great one to avoid.

IV: Why?

gcb: Well, they're central to what I'm going through, or feel I'm going through, and yet they're too vague and general to talk about.

IV: Shall we separate the two? Let's talk about love.

gcb: Thanks. No, that's no easier.

IV: Give it a shot.

gcb: Love, love. What I couldn't do with some love, a personal, one-to-one love, the kind I know you're not supposed to believe in, the romantic vision thing. I put it in some poem as...something like "just because love isn't some dream come true".... no, how's it go? "just because I want love to be some dream come true/ is no reason why the real thing shouldn't come along...." Something like that. I know I've got romantic fantasies but I think I'm realistic enough too to manage the kind of love that would be okay.

(There's a long silence.)

(The next song on Patty Griffin's "Flaming Red", [#5] begins to play.)

gcb: No, this isn't it either, the song with that line I relate to.

IV: Talk about love.

gcb: OK, start over? Love, I thought, I still think it's what we're here for so I think of it as an active, outgoing thing, something I want to be doing. That's it, that simple. I want to love. And that's not happening in my life now. I think for it to start there has to be that primer and that primer is a one-on-one love. From that comes the outgoing, universal love that draws me, if not each of us, forward. I am a spiritual being seeking that unification. And yet I treasure and value individuality. I don't see a conflict or paradox there.

IV: And so death....

gcb: I guess it's been the lover I've been waiting for. I know it's not an ending so it doesn't bother me for it to happen. It's a bridge to where we're all going. I accept it with bittersweetness. I think of how wonderful this life really is and can be. I'd love to stay longer but I can't. I just can't. Just to talk of it brings an actual pain to my insides. This wonderful life - I'm thinking of Emily's speech from "Our Town" - the trees, the sky, the wonderful color that is blue, the pleasure of music and ideas. And the so many things I could have but didn't do - books to be read, great things, places to see - think Angel Falls, think Tokyo, people to emulate, meet - why does Susan Sarandon come to mind?

IV: Who would you most like to meet?

gcb: For the longest time it was Allen Ginsberg but he's dead now (Freddy I suppose would have been on the list but he's dead now too). I remember Phil saying how it wasn't unlikely, that I could have met had I gone to Naropa that year he did and met Ginsberg. Yeah, right. I'm feeling some lower-middle class bitterness now.

IV: So it would be?

gcb: There's really nobody. I suppose that's the depression talking. But since just before my birthday last year the equation has been I meet a love interest or nobody/death. I guess I'm getting my birthday wish. My love or nobody. Yep.

IV: It's that simple?

gcb: Yes, we create our own deaths and that is one I'm prepared to accept authorship of. We all do and we know it and never get to a level of conversation where we can discuss it between ourselves. It's the same about so many of the important "spiritual" issues that make up our thinking minds - they're always in there, constant concepts that we wrestle with on our own, wanting to share but not able to get to that.... See? I start talking about death and I get back to the subject of love. It's a communication thing, I want and need to get to a place of talking about these larger concepts and that's just not something one is able to do with more casual friends, it's something that is part of the one-on-one love that I'm thinking of.

(The next song [#11] begins.)

Here's the song and as soon as it started I remembered the line: "You've got a stellar reputation / As the star that never fell." Damn, that's good poetry, the irony in the use of "stellar". Damn, that's good.

It's that I realize that depth of communication takes time to develop and I don't .... I feel like I don't have that kind of time left. The depth I want to get to would have had to have been started by now. It hasn't been. It won't be.

IV: Is it time to talk about "that other thing"?

gcb: I suppose it is. But, no, that doesn't have to do with this either. In its way it's become convenient that I was diagnosed as HIV positive the week after my birthday. Or maybe it's just a sweet lemon approach to reality. 

(Greg reaches over to smoke the last of the marijuana.)

And talking about it changes nothing.

IV: Can we talk about the down days?

gcb: Oh, there's nothing worse and there have been so many of late. It used to be pretty much - well, not 100% though, never been 100% - to the hangover days. But it's been a lot more than that. Days when every waking moment is spent in self-pity and yearning. Yeah, there've been a lot of them lately. And it's very .... what's the word I want? Centrifugal? That gets started and it snowballs, that's the word. You're moping and it is reflected in your physical being so you're not attractive to others. 

(Greg gets up to change the cds now that Patty has ended.)

Shit, now I lost my train of thought. I was getting to something larger, important, thought I was. But, yeah, the bad days are ... bad. Overwhelming. Sure, I look around and see that I've got a lot more than some others, I could be blind or crippled or homeless (well, I could be nanomonths from that). But it's not often in self-wallowing that those thoughts occur. You're too preoccupied with "me", "me", "me". Now I'm back to talking about love. When you have that "other" in your life you're already less self-preoccupied; that negative is less constant to your routine.

IV: It's been almost an hour, wanna take a break?

gcb: Naw. Probably just a cigarette will do.

(He lights one.)

IV: You brought it up way back when, "Notes to a Suicide." So we're gonna talk about it. Is that your way out?

gcb: I really don't think so. I think about it a lot, a lot more than I can admit to anyone though it seems obvious to me that those around me should realize it's in my mind, but, no, I really can't see me doing it. At least not in the classical sense of the word.

If it were a medical thing, that's different. Thank God Oregon has the law whereby it's legal to do so in a medical situation. Yes, in that way, when the time comes, I would certainly opt for suicide. It's occurred to me recently though that I'd probably not pass one of the criteria for getting such a prescription.

IV: Which is?

gcb: You have to be judged not to be suffering depression and I wouldn't pass that test in the past ten years of my life, I would guess.

(There's another long silence.)

IV: Can you get help for that?

gcb: I don't see the point. Well, I do, but I don't have the interest or care to do so. Simply, it seems like work, and it's part of depression to not face some of the big things. I've been doing it a long time. I don't know any other way.


IV: Talk about love and death.

gcb: Love and death, love and death. I'm eager for either. One or the other, I've gotta have something different from what I've been having. I've thought that for how long now and still it's day after day of the same, the same, no hope, no change. I can't take another day of it I said or thought so very long ago. And yet there's another, today was another, tomorrow will be too.

I could go on in that vein but it gets so fucking boring fast. And pointless, spinning one's wheels.

IV: So where from there?

gcb: You tell me. I don't know.

IV: Talk about love and death.

gcb: The star that never fell. That's my life, the love that never appeared. I just feel so much potential, always have, for my life. I know what I'm capable of, or maybe I don't even know. Maybe I'm capable of more than that but I feel that I'm capable of powerful things, really big. But I can't get to them. It's like they're stored in the closets of rooms I haven't been to yet. First I gotta get to the right room. I'm talking about love again.

And it seems so impossible to me too. That's where bitterness comes from, I'm sure of it. The bitterness of the condemned. The improbability of it all. I go around and see couples everywhere; I don't care that some of them are more short-term relationships than what I'm gloating over. That's immaterial. It's just that so damn many others have found someone to be with, if only for the time being. Why does that not happen to me? Why has it not happened?

Impossible. And the fact that it has happened makes me have to wonder stupid things like, "Am I that much a freak?" or "Am I that physically repellant?" It's no wonder I have no self-esteem because one gets self-esteem from others, and I have no "others". It's all very ugly; let's chamge subjects.

IV: To what?

gcb: I could bore you with talk about the new music selections. First is an ancient Pink Floyd album, "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" which I've enjoyed some 25 years now? Just under that, since about 77? Next will be the Eagles's "Hotel California" which I haven't listened to in ages but put it because the Eagles Greatest Hits cd I've tried playing all day won't play. Oh, well. Then after that is a cd I made at my old job of very ('98) current songs for the most part, downloaded off the Internet and put onto cd.

IV: You were right. Talk about love and death.

gcb: Both are getting to be boring topics. And they shouldn't be. It's kinda like sex. What was the statistic I once heard? How often the average man thinks about sex. Once every five or six minutes is the figure that comes to mind. Are love and death thoughts that come to mind as often? Less? More? But sex is less abstract, imagine that.

Is love the same concept to one awaiting it and one experiencing it? (Is death the same concept before and after? I doubt it and I doubt the same of love.) And is the frequency the same?

Wonderful questions, I'm proud of myself. But that only goes so far. I sit back and realize the import of what I've just reached, but it stops there.

I wanna be answering those questions, damn it. There's that pang, that pain again, that poison I've been feeding myself too long. I'm back to talking about love.

What else did that make me think of?

(The cd changes from Pink Floyd to the Eagles.)

IV: Something about pride?

gcb: That's close, but not it. Oh, masturbating. See what I'm doing, this interview, the pride of getting to questions such as the above, it's all just masturbating. You're doing it only for yourself and it gets boring. Sickening. I sicken myself. I'm talking more about death, I guess, than love. No, I'm talking about loneliness. Which is talking about love.

IV: How does it happen?

gcb: Love or talking about it?

IV: You know what I meant.

gcb: See, I'm clever for myself. I'm smart for myself. I'm talented for myself. I'm bored with myself. I'm talking about love again.

IV: How does it happen?

gcb: I don't know. I fucking don't know. I wish I did. I've thought about it so much I should have some concept.

In straight people I think it grows and develops. In gay relationships it has to either be there or not. That's how it seems to me. I've wondered and wanted the growing kind to happen in my life as well but it hasn't. 

What I mean is I think many straight couples resign themselves to their relationships. There are rare ones that actually evidence what I think of as love: a complementariness, a development in which the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Again we're getting into conceptual things that make difficult conversation. There's a difference between the concepts and talk of the concepts. It's similar to the difference between the written word and the thought that condensed itself into those words.

IV: You're starting to talk about creativity, a subject you wanted to bring up?

gcb: Well, it has been at the back of my mind recently. I am missing that outlet and don't know how to get it back. My creativity was once the driving force of my life. Really, I lived to create. Anything. Get me high and give me paper, pens and a scissors, I don't care. Rocks, time itself.

But I don't do that, the interest is vaguely there, the drive itself only vaguely there; the satisfaction, which used to be great enough for me to continue to create regardless of other reward, that satisfaction is poof, gone. I feel too far from it, my writing. It feels like a lifetime ago. Even longer. It's a memory of a story someone told me that I wasn't overly interested in in the first place.

WHich is so funny realizing how much it did once mean to me. I guess this is an extension of that, but even so only vaguely.

IV: What is this then?

gcb: Certainly not the poem I'd thought it might become. This is masturbation, mental masturbation. And self-pity.

IV: Actually you've gotten distracted from that for the moment but no matter.

gcb: Then I think it's time for that break.

IV: Good idea.

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